WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE CONDITION FOR SILVERPLATE?

By: John Hogan

When we speak about antique and vintage silverplate we all seem to have different criteria for what we consider acceptable condition.

Wm. A. Rogers, Antique Silver Plate Butter Dish, C. 1900

LATE VICTORIAN S.P. BUTTER DISH

WILLIAM ROGERS BACKSTAMP

When we think of antique and vintage silverplate we should not expect to see new looking or unused silverware. It's like people who say they enjoy antique and vintage furniture but do not like any wear or patina on their furniture. Some people like their antique furniture to look "new." Well as we already know - high quality antique furniture that has been completely stripped and refinished has been devalued drastically. It may on occasion look more pleasing aesthetically but for resale value, all the important original patina is now lost forever and can never be retrieved. This is extremely important when we speak of really early period furniture and primitive furniture.

Well the same concept applies to high quality and really Early Georgian and Victorian silverplate. It should be re-plated or re-silvered only if there is no other redemption. Like old furniture that is not high quality sometimes needs a face lift to give it new life. Consequently the "shabby chic" vogue lives to give a new existence to a piece of furniture that probably would have been thrown in the garbage.

Unfortunately some antique Victorian silverplate was electroplated on a pewter-like base which is referred to as Britannica metal and once it has bleed, it looks like pewter and no longer looks like silverplate. For many who like the old shapes and ornate embossing or relief work, there is no other redemption other than to re-plate or re-silver it. If the base for your antique Georgian and Early Victorian (Art Nouveau) silverplate was rose copper, it is not recommended to re-silver unless all of the silver is completely worn off. Patina for really attractive antique silverplate pieces add to their values. So before you choose the option of re-plating or re-silvering, make sure you are not stripping a lovely Georgian or early Art Nouveau piece. Always check with a silverware specialist first before you do something drastic where the process cannot be reversed.

Some minor conditional problems that are a common occurrence or commonplace with "antique and vintage" silverplate pieces which are considered acceptable and by general standards considered as "patina" are minor or light surface scratching and slight wear or minor bleeding of the base metal which is generally copper, brass or Britannica metal.

  • Teapots, Coffee pots and Jugs generally show some interior discoloration and pitting due to the chemical interaction of the tea, coffee or other beverages with the various base metals if left sitting for long time periods and not properly cleaned after each usage. Teapots almost always have discoloration on the "interior" bottom.
  • Trays normally have light surface scratching and bleeding of the base metal. Antique and Vintage Trays almost always show surface wear on the reverse side (back side).
  • Well & Tree Trays are usually found in a relatively poor state of affairs due to the encounter of the carving fork and knife. So if found with minor surface scratching or minor bleeding, you are doing good. When shopping, always look for heavy quality ones which are electroplated on copper.
  • Flatware, for example forks, knives, spoons, etc., because of their usage, will on many occasions exhibit some light surface scratching.
  • Carving Sets are somewhat difficult to find where the knife is in excellent condition. Many times the knife is in horrible condition because of improper sharpening technique. No it is not acceptable for the knife to be badly worn as a result of wrong sharpening method.
  • Candlesticks, at the insert top section, sometimes will exhibit slight discoloration where the candle burns too low; also sometimes on the underneath side of the base, wear will show.
  • Entree Dishes, if not accompanied with glass liners, will also sometimes have surface scratches from utensils while serving.

"Antique and Vintage Silverplate" are not "new" items and therefore will almost always exhibit slight wear (bleeding) and light surface scratching. Normally if there is any relief work, that is embossing or floral, many times will show slight bleeding of the base metal.

Many Victorian Art Nouveau and Edwardian pieces of silverplate will almost always show bleeding and sometimes need re-silvering
. Re-silvering is frowned upon and is not always recommended by purists, especially when it comes to Georgian and Early Victorian silverplate. Re-silvering of really early pieces, Georgian to Mid-Victorian, can devalue pieces. Generally speaking, "re-silvering" is a personal matter of choice.

Example of an item in need of re-silvering or re-plating:

For this illustrated example of this Late Victorian butter dish, it would be acceptable to have it re-plated or re-silvered since it is bleeding the base white metal which is referred to as Britannica White Metal. Such silverplated items with this base metal are marked EPBM, meaning electroplated britannica metal.


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